The Tamil Nadu State Council for Education Research and Training (TN SCERT) has been accused of not paying five history professors their dues for writing several textbook chapters. The amount pending to be compensated by the SCERT to the authors for their work on Class 10 and Class 12 TN State Board textbooks is almost Rs 1 lakh.
The work on the project by the five professors began in November 2018, after KA Manikumar, Chairperson of the text book committee commissioned the project through an email dated November 5, 2018. The professors who were commissioned to write include V Krishna Ananth (Associate Professor, Department of History, Sikkim University); Ugen Bhutia (Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, SRM University, Andhra Pradesh); EK Santha (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Shri Ramasamy Memorial University, Sikkim); Maanvendar Singh (Assistant Professor, Department of History, SRM University, Andhra Pradesh); and S Jeevanandam (Assistant Professor, Department of History, Sikkim University). The honorarium fixed for each chapter was Rs 15,000.
In total, seven chapters were written by the five experts and all of them were emailed to Manikumar by January 23, 2019. However, almost 17 months after completing the assigned work, the authors are yet to receive the remuneration promised by the SCERT.
S Jeevanandam, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Sikkim University, contributed a chapter for the Class 10 history book. He told TNM that SCERT’s entire process was unprofessional.
“I sent them a draft within the timeline given to me. I was not told what edits are going to be made before publishing the content in the textbook. Also, my name and credentials were printed wrong in the acknowledgements, which I cannot claim in my resume,” he said.
Adding that he had chosen to do this assignment as a serious responsibility instead of using the time to write a paper for the World Tamil conference, Jeevanandam explained that the SCERT did not even get back to him once the draft was sent.
The SCERT, according to the authors, has not even sent them a copy of the textbooks and a citation yet.
The tussle to get the remuneration began around September 2019 when Manikumar promised that the honorarium will be settled by the end of the month. However, Manikumar responded that the payment was in process and every effort was being made to ensure that a physical copy of the book with the contributors’ names is also sent to the authors. Between October 2019 and January 2020, four email-exchanges were made between Krishna Ananth and Manikumar about the pending amount and the copies of the books.
Since there was no action on the part of Manikumar except promises that the payment is being processed, on February 3, 2020 Krishna Ananth sent an email to the Director of the SCERT highlighting the issue and seeking prompt action. Since there was no response from the Director, Krishna Ananth sent him another email on March 16, and a third email to Dheeraj Kumar, the Principal Secretary to Government (School Education department) on March 23. The responses from both these officials are yet to be received.
Responding to TNM’s queries about the limbo in disbursing the honorarium, KA Manikumar said that he has written to the SCERT multiple times already reminding them about the same.
“Dravidian historian AR Venkatachalapathy and I were in-charge of putting together history textbooks from Class six to 12 for the government of Tamil Nadu. I have also written emails to the SCERT reminding them about the amounts due to me and the other authors, but in vain. Isn’t it basic courtesy to send a copy of the book to the contributors who have written chapters for the book? SCERT has not done even that,” he pointed out.
Adding that the certificate to the authors acknowledging their work has to be given only by the SCERT Director and not him, Manikumar said that it is indeed unfortunate that the council is being run without any basic professionalism.
TNM has reached out to the Director of the SCERT and Dheeraj Kumar, the Principal Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu (School Education department) for a response. The article will be updated as and when they respond.